Young and Latinos Voted in Higher Numbers in 2016 Primary Election

Quick Summary

  • Approximately one third of registered voters aged 18-24 voted in 2016 primary, up 23 percentage points from 2012
  • More than 34 percent of youth voters registering chose no party affiliation; more apt to register for a third party than other age groups
  • Latino representation at the polls also on the upswing with more than 1 in 5 votes cast in the primary

New data released today by the nonpartisan California Civic Engagement Project at UC Davis show that young and Latino voters in the state turned out in relatively high numbers for the June presidential primary election, significantly narrowing the participation gap for these historically underrepresented groups. 

About one-third of young voters aged 18-24 who were registered to vote cast a ballot in the 2016 primary election, up 23 percentage points from the previous presidential primary. Total registered voter turnout also increased, up approximately 16 percentage points since the 2012 primary, but the gap between youth and total turnout decreased from 20 percentage points in 2012 to 13 percentage points in 2016. Just over half of Californians in this age group are registered voters, compared to over 70 percent of the total population.

Higher turnout among youth meant they comprised 7.5 percent of all those casting a ballot in the 2016 California primary election, more than double the youth share of voters seen in the previous primary and the highest in the 12-year period examined by the study. However, youth were still significantly underrepresented among California voters as this age group makes up 14.2 percent of the state’s eligible voters.

Fewer youth registering as Republican or Democrat

By the close of registration for the primary, young Californians, overall, remain registered as No Party Preference at a much higher rate (34.4 percent), and as Republican at a much lower rate (16.7 percent), than the state’s general voting population, 23.9 percent of whom registered No Party Preference and 27.4 percent Republican. Youth were registered with the Democratic Party at a slightly lower rate (42.5 percent) than the general population (44.7 percent), and were more apt to register with a third party. 

The 2016 primary election data also reveals a notable upswing in voting among California’s Latino population. More than one in five voters casting a ballot in the 2016 California primary election were Latino. This was the highest Latino share of California’s primary vote during the 12-year period examined in the study, and larger than the Latino share of the 2012 general election. This was also the first California primary since the special 2008 presidential primary where a higher percentage of registered Latino voters turned out than Asian-American voters, and the gap between Latino voters and the total voting population decreased. Representation of Asian-Americans among California’s voting electorate remained relatively flat in 2016 at 7 percent. Both Latino and Asian-Americans continue to be significantly underrepresented at the polls in California, but it appears that the unique nature of the 2016 primary election galvanized high levels of Latino participation.

“While we continue to see disparities in turnout among different age and racial groups in California, it appears that increased voter engagement of young and Latino voters resulted in greater representation for these groups at the ballot box in the June election,” said CCEP Director Mindy Romero. “While we can expect disparities in voter turnout to persist, our analysis shows that those seeking elected office in the Golden State cannot ignore these growing parts of the electorate and expect to succeed.”

Media Resources

Mindy Romero, UC Davis California Civic Engagement Project, 530-665-3010,

Kimberly Hale, UC Davis News and Media Relations, 530-752-9838,

Primary Category